Vol. 13 No. 1 (2022)

John Arthur "Jaki" Byard: A Centennial Tribute to an Original Eclectic

Scott E. Brown

Published 2022-11-07

How to Cite

Brown, S. E. (2022). John Arthur "Jaki" Byard: A Centennial Tribute to an Original Eclectic. Journal of Jazz Studies, 13(1), 20–46. https://doi.org/10.14713/jjs.v13i1.194


2022 marks the centennial of the birth of pianist/composer John Arthur “Jaki” Byard. Byard is highly regarded among his many musician students and serious students of jazz history, but his place in the historical narrative of twentieth century jazz, and the nature of his music, have challenged conventional approaches to assessing them. Attributes are assigned to his playing and methodology that convey a simplistic interpretation of a complex man who expressed a profound and individual notion of the cultural, social, and political nature of his music and jazz. Well known for a comprehensive grasp of jazz history and a virtuosic ability to articulate it musically, his intentions are diluted and obfuscated by misinterpretation of the way he applies humor, eclecticism, and historical reference. This paper will examine Byard’s background as the source of his expansive view, his natural talents as humorist and educator, and how these elements led him to adopt the classical definition of eclecticism to craft a unique voice that was both inclusive and specific.